Pastor's Pen
by Buzz Dahlen
There are lessons in life that we all have to learn.  Most of the time, we learn these lessons by trial and error.  Often, we are fortunate to be able to observe someone else “take the class” and learn from their experiences.  Then there are those “classes” that we seem to have to take over and over, again and again.  To quote a popular song from my youth; “When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?”
It seems like the hardest lessons to learn are those that have to do with relationships.  Relationships might seem more challenging because people are so different from each other and each person comes with their own special challenges and/or people seem to change over time, so that what “worked” last year doesn’t apply this year.  Of course, there is always the challenge of the person who has been hurt or offended and that throws all sorts of “extra homework” into the classroom.  
No matter what the situation, it really is a learning process.  The lessons must be learned, the classes must be taken.  Just like in any class, the teacher has a lot to do with how well we learn.  Paul is reported to have been a pretty good teacher.  Many of his writings have been held in high regard over the years and I think he has something worthwhile for us on the topic of relationships.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.  On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:9-21
This is almost like a relationship sandwich.  The slices of bread are “Love must be sincere.” & Do not be overcome by evil, but over come evil with good.  Everything in between is the meat.  If we are going to build any kind of positive relationship, we have to begin with sincere love.  Obviously, it is not love if it is not sincere.  We have to be sincerely honest with ourselves as to whether or not we are “walking in love.”  Then we apply all that Paul adds to this meal.  It’s all good and important.  Then we top it off with, do not be overcome...
Relationships take time and energy.  Too often, we leave a relationship when things get a little hard or don’t go our way.  To these people Paul writes, overcome those challenges with “good.”
Sure there is a time when some relationships should come to an end.  There are relationships, which are not healthy, but even those relationships can be learning opportunities and do not have to end up as scares in our past.  Take a look at your relationships; are they where you want them to be?  Are they healthy, growing, productive relationships?  I bet they are if you have applied what Paul has to say.
Ok, back to class…

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